Saving forests and the climate

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A great deal has been learned over the past 15 years about how to reduce carbon emissions from tropical deforestation in ways that benefit local people and the global environment. Stopping deforestation is a complex undertaking, but because it accounts for 17 percent of global emissions, practical solutions are essential ["Use of Forests as Carbon Offsets Fails to Impress in First Big Trial," news story, Oct. 15].

Last week, the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests, which we co-chair, called for the United States to partner with developing nations to cut emissions from deforestation in half by 2020 and reach zero net emissions from forests by 2030.

A central recommendation of the commission's report is that developing nations should be compensated only after emission reductions have been measured and verified. Developing a global partnership to halt tropical deforestation requires strong environmental standards and public accountability. But above all, it requires the immediate support of policymakers who understand the serious threat that continued deforestation poses to the United States and the world.

Lincoln Chafee and John Podesta, Washington

Lincoln Chafee is a former Republican senator from Rhode Island; John Podesta is president and chief executive of the Center for American Progress.

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Using forests to offset carbon emissions is challenging, but when it comes to storing carbon, forests -- and not just those in the tropics or off-limits to harvesting -- have an incredibly important role to play. There is no question that forests sequester carbon, but they can provide these services only when they're managed appropriately, which can include sustainable logging.

Forests cleared for development, agriculture or parking lots sequester nothing. Managing a forest to grow over the long term, while also harvesting wood products that replace steel, concrete and other non-renewable products, may actually store more carbon than strict preservation. Further, such "working forests" can provide other benefits -- improved habitat for wildlife, reduced risk of catastrophic wildfire, water quality, manufacturing jobs and even sources of renewable energy -- while they're storing carbon. To ignore this would be a mistake.

Michael T. Goergen Jr., Bethesda

The writer is executive vice president and chief executive of the Society of American Foresters.


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